In the 20th century, America transformed from a sleeping giant uninterested in engagements abroad to a world leader committed to defending freedom and democracy. The struggle against fascism in World War II vaulted the United States into a position of leadership for a liberal democratic coalition committed to combating the forces of authoritarianism abroad.
Sadly, it now seems we have forgotten the lessons of World War II and authoritarianism is once again on the rise.
European countries such as Poland and Hungary have governments whose actions are antithetical to democracy. They undermine the autonomy of the judiciary, attack the freedom of the press and use anti-Semitic rhetoric for political gain.
Similarly, in Western Europe, xenophobic far-right parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France have been growing in popularity. The current government of Austria is headed by the Freedom Party, which has its roots in an organization founded by a former SS officer.
The same thing is happening in the United States. President Trump and his style of politics rely on the same use of racial scare tactics. Fascism uses race to distract voters from economic grievances.
In the 1930s, the Nazi Party told German citizens, left destitute by the Great Depression, that Jews were to blame for their misfortune. President Trump uses this same technique. He claims that immigrants are flooding over the border to steal American jobs.
The 1940s saw America’s first act of international leadership: crushing fascism in Europe. Today we are at a crossroads. With authoritarianism spreading around the world. We must combat these tendencies in our own country and do everything we can to stem the tide of authoritarianism abroad.